Speak Out April 2021

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Let’s talk about gender and sexuality by Claire Barbagallo Speech Pathologist working at the Queensland Children’s Gender Service and privately at Finding Your Voice Therapy.

From the beginning of my career, I knew I wanted to work in a less known area of speech pathology. Not long after I graduated in 2014 from James Cook University in Townsville, and following a period in the Education setting, I landed a role with Child and Youth Mental Health Services (CYMHS), where I have been since. I have been lucky enough to experience many arms of the CYMHS sector, including different community and specialist teams. In 2017 I got the privilege in joining the very beginnings of the Queensland Children’s Gender Service. And it was around this time, I established a private practice, Finding Your Voice Therapy. Like some of you, I had walked into a field of practice with no experience and one where the literature around the speech pathology role was scarce. What I did know was I had (and still have) a passion to give young people a voice in their care and to advocate for the speech pathology profession in these unique areas of work. I hope to share that passion with you by highlighting a few things I have learned along the way.

The formation of gender and sexuality is a normal developmental stage in childhood. Everyone’s journey is so unique, and it can be particularly complex for young people with co-occurring communication needs. Speech-language pathologists are uniquely positioned to understand the nature and overall developmental significance of language acquisition in childhood and adolescence, particularly in the context of gender identity and sexuality. The evidence has suggested that there is an overrepresentation of young trans people with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Young people with ASD or specific language difficulties can find it challenging to understand and talk about abstract concepts. When it comes to exploring concepts such as gender and sexuality, who better to support these conversations than us speech pathologists. To do so, it is helpful to have awareness of gender and sexuality literacy such as: social rules/norms/ expectations; gender identity; gender expression; assigned sex; sexuality; and body anatomy and physiology.


Speak Out | April 2021

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